Tag Archives: grip

Biden maintains grip on 2020 Democratic race after third debate

Biden maintains grip on 2020 Democratic race after third debateThose expecting Joe Biden’s presidential candidacy to flame out any day now will have to keep waiting. The former U.S. vice president survived another Democratic debate on Thursday largely unbloodied and unbowed, leaving those on the margins of the race for the party’s 2020 nomination wondering if their time to gain ground on the front-runner is running out. If anything, the third Democratic debate in Houston was notable for how few of the nine other candidates took hard swings at Biden, a marked contrast from earlier debates when his record was more directly challenged.



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Israel's Netanyahu Retains Grip on Power Despite Graft Probes

Israel's Netanyahu Retains Grip on Power Despite Graft ProbesNetanyahu’s Likud party and retired general Benny Gantz’s Blue and White bloc each won 35 of parliament’s 120 seats. Shortly after polls closed, several of the prime minister’s current partners announced that they would recommend to President Reuven Rivlin that Netanyahu form the next government. “It will be a right-wing government but I intend to be the prime minister of all Israel,” the premier told cheering supporters in Tel Aviv, following a divisive campaign where alleged corruption and personal insult overshadowed policy differences.



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Turkish president suffers series of setbacks as his party loses grip of capital

Turkish president suffers series of setbacks as his party loses grip of capitalRecep Tayyip Erdogan said his ruling party would make up for its "shortcomings” after Turkish voters handed it a series of stinging local election defeats amid widespread frustration over the economy. The Turkish president’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost control of the mayorship of Ankara for the first time in 25 years and preliminary figures appeared to show they had also lost the mayor’s race in Istanbul. The results are arguably the worst showing for the AKP since it first came to power in 2003 and prompted victory celebrations among the Turkish opposition.  Mr Erdogan, who has held power for 15 years and presided over a crackdown on the free media and political opponents, campaigned relentlessly and described the local elections as “a matter of survival” for the country.  However, it was not enough to overcome public anger over the economy, which is currently in recession and has been dogged by a weakened currency that has damaged businesses and hurt families’ finances.    Mr Erdogan appeared to cede the Istanbul vote Credit: Arif Hudaverdi Yaman/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images Speaking in Ankara, Mr Erdogan appeared somewhat chastened by the voters’ rebuke of his party. "If there are any shortcomings, it is our duty to correct them,” he said. “Starting tomorrow morning, we will begin our work to identify our shortcomings and make up for them." Turkish officials said the president may reshuffle his cabinet ministers as a way of signalling to both voters and the markets that he understood their frustration.   Mr Erdogan nonetheless claimed victory on the grounds that the AKP and its nationalist allies had still won more than 50 per cent of the vote nationwide.  AKP officials also said they planned to dispute the results in both Ankara and Istanbul, where their secular rivals, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), had claimed victory.  The AKP candidate in Istanbul, Binali Yildrim, was trailing by 25,000 votes out of around 10 million total votes cast and refused to conceded.  Mr Erdogan was elected mayor of Istanbul in 1994 and his allies have held the post ever since, meaning defeat there would be a blow to the president’s personal legacy.  The gap was larger in Ankara, where the AKP candidate appeared to have lost 51 per cent to 47 per cent to a CHP challenger. The AKP said it planned to challenge the results there also. "The people have voted in favour of democracy, they have chosen democracy," said Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the CHP.  Rusen Cakir, a prominent Turkish commentator, said the results were as important as those in 1994, when Mr Erdogan first became mayor of Istanbul. “It is is a declaration that a page that was opened 25 years ago is being turned,” he said.  The results do not affect Mr Erdogan’s grip on the presidency nor his control of parliament, where the AKP retains control through an agreement with a smaller nationalist party.   However, mayors have significant powers in Turkey and the CHP victories are likely to mean significant changes in how the country’s largest cities are run.    Turkey has no scheduled elections for the next four years so it may be difficult for the opposition to turn its local election victories into broader political momentum.  A team of election observers from the Council of Europe said it was “not fully convinced that Turkey currently has the free and fair electoral environment which is necessary for genuinely democratic elections”.  Turkey’s media is overwhelmingly loyal to Mr Erdogan and his political opponents have faced arrest and harassment by state authorities as they tried to challenge the AKP. While Mr Erdogan took deliberately pragmatic positions during his first years in office, he has become more hardline over time, developing a political brand based on a combination of Islamism, authoritarian nationalism, and economic populism.  He has moved aggressively to stamp out dissent in the three years since a failed coup against him in 2016. However, the CHP and other opposition parties retain large memberships and the infrastructure to fight elections.



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Hamas' grip on Gaza is tighter than ever, despite protests

Hamas' grip on Gaza is tighter than ever, despite protestsGAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Over the weekend, Gaza's Hamas rulers marked a year of bloody, weekly protests that have failed to break the Israeli blockade. Rocket attacks brought a wave of Israeli airstrikes and unprecedented protests broke out against the Islamic militants' increasingly unpopular rule.



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Safety fears about Boeing 737 MAX grip US passengers

Safety fears about Boeing 737 MAX grip US passengersUS airlines are standing behind Boeing despite the wave of countries and carriers that have grounded the 737 MAX, but fear has gripped crews and passengers, and many are refusing to fly on the plane. Following the second deadly crash of one of its aircraft, some US politicians also have called for the plane to be grounded while the investigation continues, but regulators so far have not taken that step. A growing number of Americans are expressing similar doubts on social media, and some are cancelling or rebooking flights on this single-aisle aircraft, which accounted for one-third of Boeing’s profits in 2018.



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Safety fears about Boeing 737 MAX grip US passengers

Safety fears about Boeing 737 MAX grip US passengersNew York (AFP) – US airlines are standing behind Boeing despite the wave of countries and carriers that have grounded the 737 MAX, but fear has gripped crews and passengers, and many are refusing to fly on the plane.



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Syrian jihadists cement grip, forcing deal on Idlib rebels

Syrian jihadists cement grip, forcing deal on Idlib rebelsThe northwest of Syria near the Turkish border is the last part of the country still in the hands of fighters seeking to topple President Bashar al-Assad, but control has been divided between jihadist factions and other rebels backed by Turkey. On Thursday Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a jihadist group listed as terrorists by the United States, Turkey and others, forced factions from the Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) to accept a peace deal recognizing civilian control by an HTS-backed administration. The success of the jihadists in recent days raises doubt over the future of a deal agreed in September between Turkey and the Assad government’s main ally Russia to avert an army assault.



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Inside North Korea: How Kim Jong-un is carefully crafting a personality cult to keep grip on power

Inside North Korea: How Kim Jong-un is carefully crafting a personality cult to keep grip on powerThe tiny five-year-olds, dressed in pink tutus and bright, sequined shirts, were angelic as they sang in perfect chorus at the end of a half hour performance at the Changgwang kindergarten in downtown Pyongyang. Singing in harmony and clapping in unison, the smiling infants performed their catchy melody: “Our father is General Kim Il Sung…our home is our party…We envy nothing in the world.” Visitors to the modern and well-equipped boarding school leave with an image of idyllic childhood after seeing pupils light up at the chance to show the few foreigners allowed to enter the country their high-tech game machines, sports classes, ballet performances, and immaculate artwork. But the demonstrations also offer an insight into one of the more chilling aspects of North Korean life: a conditioning from infancy to express fawning devotion to the ruling Kim family. Three generations of the dynasty, from current leader Kim Jong-un, to his father Kim Jong-il, and war hero grandfather, Kim Il Sung, are venerated as deities and their personality cults permeate daily life with a suffocating effect. Kim Jong-il greets residents at one of Pyonyang's subway entrances Credit: Eddie Mulholland But while the two elder Kims are omnipresent – their portraits adorning the walls of every household, factory, school, even metro carriages – the young, current leader has so far resisted self-aggrandising monuments. However, in a move seen as an attempt to cement the 35-year-old as life-long ruler and to head off any possible leadership challenge, he is rapidly creating his own generational chapter of family mythology through tales of his own benevolence, superhuman talents and exemplary feats. According to some of the most outlandish claims, he learned to drive at age three and became a competitive sailor at nine. Last year, state-run media reported his ability to change the weather as he ascended the country’s sacred Mount Paektu through snow in black, leather shoes. Wedding groups gather at the Korean Revolution Museum to lay flowers at the statues of Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il Credit: Eddie Mulholland In drip feed of carefully controlled state-published images of the leader, Kim is frequently photographed imparting his wisdom to officials scribbling in notebooks or to emotionally-overcome workers. On visits around Pyongyang last week the Telegraph learned of his “expert instructions” on the design of the natural history museum and on how to improve football boots. At the maternity hospital, Mun Chang-un, a guide, attributed the introduction of the epidural injection to the leader’s sage advice.   Portraits of North Korea's former leaders even make their way into the subway carriages Credit: Eddie Mulholland The sculpting of future generations to ensure their unwavering faith in the wisdom of the country’s past and current “great leaders” is a top priority for the regime to keep its grip on power.  In Changgwang, some 800 children living apart from their working parents, sing of their wish for Kim Jong-un to visit. In a history class, one boy sprang from his seat. “I will uphold highly the great, respected Kim Jong-un,” he said to joyful clapping from his classmates.  At the school’s entrance, a floor to ceiling painting in soft pastels of Kim Il Sung surrounded by children, some sitting on his lap, frames him as a modern-day Jesus.   “Let the little children come to me..the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these,” says Jesus in the Gospel of St Matthew.  “Young people are the successors to the revolution, a shock brigade in building a thriving nation and masters who will shoulder the future of Kim Il Sung’s nation,” states the red book of Kim Jong Un Aphorisms, volume 1, page 52.  North Korea claims to be a non-religious state, but it has simply replaced religion with Kim family worship.  Citizens bow deeply to imposing wax sculptures of “Eternal President” Kim Il Sung, while the party faithful proudly wear a red lapel pin depicting him and his son. The absence of Kim Jong-un billboards and portraits is noticeable and unexplained, although he is still officially idolised.  Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung look down upon the population across the capital Credit: Eddie Mulholland He could be taking things slowly while moulding his own cult-like image around that of his grandfather, the most popular of the Kims, suggested Robert Kelly, a political science professor at South Korea’s Busan university. “He is famously styling himself after Kim Il Sung, with the hair and the weight.” He added: “It seems like the propaganda apparatus didn’t really miss a beat. Kim Jong-un has been given all the relevant titles, he’s been given the same majesty and superstitious exaggeration.” Objects Kim once touched are revered – a hospital bed he sat on, a chair he used when addressing textile workers, now encased in a plastic box. Every factory has its own story of his concern to improve workers’ lives.  At the model Jangchon vegetable farm on the city’s periphery, deputy manager Kim Yong-ho, 53, spoke of his joy when the “great Marshall” visited. “I felt really proud to have met such a great man as the leader of our country! He is like the sun to us,” he said.   Such is the depth of mass indoctrination that even the most innocuous everyday occurrences prompt spontaneous gratitude to the leader.  Student Kim Song-gwang won an orange balloon after kissing a dolphin during a Sunday afternoon performance at the aquarium. “I am really impressed by the love and care of our great Marshall Kim Jong-un that we are enjoying ourselves in this wonderful location,” he said, when asked about the event.  Portraits sit above the sofa at the home of Kim Chun-Son. All portraits must be sanctioned by the state before being hung  Credit: Eddie Mulholland But unlike his father and grandfather, Kim faces the challenge of keeping his people isolated from the global internet age to sustain his legendary status.  As a result, the flow of outside information is still deeply curtailed. Most citizens may only access the state intranet and its heavily censored content, while calls or emails to foreigners must be officially registered.  Foreign news is highly restricted. One educated Pyongyang resident recounted the details of the June Singapore summit between Kim and Donald Trump, the US president, but had not heard of the Thai cave rescue which gripped the world for two weeks. Pornography and Bibles are considered to be “evil methods of infiltration”, used to “destabilise society.” Individualism is discouraged, dissent is punished. In one of the more bizarre restrictions, men and women may not dye their hair, and should choose from approved styles, including the “butterfly”, “seagull” and “coiled bundle.” Korea experts question how long Kim can maintain such draconian control? Although popular for improving the economy and securing the North’s nuclear weapons, Kim still faced future challenges to his power, said Andrei Lankov, a professor at Seoul’s Kookmin university.  “In order to keep the country stable they have to keep it isolated. If they open it, it will be suicidal for the elite and even for many common people because if you have revolution in North Korea it’s going to be very messy and bloody,” he said.  Visitors to the Changgwang Kindergarten are presented with an idyllic image of childhood in North Korea Credit: Eddie Mulholland “Basically, you cannot maintain such a level of ideological mobilisation forever. Information is getting in. Kim Jong-un is now taking it very seriously, he is doing what he can to prevent people from learning too much about the outside world. But he cannot fully stop it.” In a sign that the secluded society is slowly opening up, Oh Song Chong, 25, the soldier who was shot while made a daring defection across the border last year, told Japan’s Sankei Shimbun paper this week that “probably 80% of my generation is indifferent and has no loyalty,” to Kim.  “I actually think that most North Koreans think the ideology is kind of bunk,” said Robert Kelly. “My sense is that it serves two purposes. Firstly, it’s a mobilisation tool and the second is that without the Kim cult then North Korea just becomes a poorer version of South Korea.” For now, the regime’s imperative remains shaping the minds of schoolchildren.  At the Mangyongdae schoolchildren’s palace, a surreal after-school club that hosts regular performances for tourists, students sang and executed flawless dance routines in praise of the nation’s achievements.  Ri Jin-hyang, a 12-year-old guide, wearing the red scarf of the Children’s Union, a political organisation linked to the ruling Workers’ Party, was unsure what to reply when asked what she knew about the UK.  But her response on America was immediate and scripted to perfection. “The US is the country that invaded us,” she said.



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World's longest sea bridge opens in China as critics warn it will increase Beijing's grip on Hong Kong

World's longest sea bridge opens in China as critics warn it will increase Beijing's grip on Hong KongChina's President Xi Jinping officially opened the world's longest sea bridge connecting Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China Tuesday, at a time when Beijing is tightening its grip on its semi-autonomous territories. The 34-mile (55-kilometre)  crossing, which includes a snaking road bridge and underwater tunnel, links Hong Kong with the southern mainland city of Zhuhai and the gambling enclave of Macau, across the waters of the Pearl River Estuary. Xi presided over an inauguration ceremony attended by Hong Kong's and Macau's city leaders at a new port terminal in Zhuhai. "I declare the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge officially open," Xi said in a one-line address, as digital fireworks exploded on a screen behind him at the indoor ceremony, before leaving the stage immediately. Supporters of the multi-billion-dollar bridge promote it as an engineering marvel that will boost business and cut travel time, but critics say it is one more way to integrate Hong Kong into China as fears grow that the city's cherished freedoms are being eroded. China's Vice Premier Han Zheng characterised the bridge as part of the development of the Greater Bay Area – a Beijing-driven project to create an economic hub linking nine southern mainland cities to Hong Kong and Macau. At the ceremony he described the strategy as "deployed and driven by Xi Jinping personally". Hong Kong cars and drivers travelling over the bridge "must comply with the laws and regulations of the mainland" Credit: ANTHONY WALLACE/ AFP Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said the bridge would help transform Hong Kong from a "connector to a more active participant". It is the second major infrastructure project tying Hong Kong to mainland China to launch in a matter of weeks, after the opening of a high-speed rail link last month that sparked criticism Hong Kong was giving away territory – with part of the terminus coming under mainland jurisdiction. The main section of the new bridge is also considered mainland territory, even though Hong Kong was slated to pay at least half the cost of the project, according to the original blueprint from the city's government. Hong Kong cars and drivers travelling over it "must comply with the laws and regulations of the mainland", the city's transport department said. Building began in 2009 and has been dogged by delays, budget overruns, corruption prosecutions and the deaths of construction workers. The total price tag is unclear but some estimates run to over 100 billion yuan ($ 14.4 billion). Cars park on a section of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge in front of the East Artificial Island in Hong Kong on October 23 Credit: ANTHONY WALLACE/ AFP Hong Kong residents will only be granted a licence to cross into Zhuhai by car if they meet highly selective criteria, including holding certain mainland government positions or making major contributions to charities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong. Most people will need to travel on coaches and buses. Some Hong Kong media reported that the physical condition of bus drivers would be monitored by cameras, including an alert sent if a driver yawns more than three times in 20 seconds. Online commenters in Hong Kong complained about the bridge's restricted access ahead of the launch. "Such a huge investment using the Hong Kong taxpayer's money… yet basically it is not open to us at all," said one comment on the South China Morning Post website. But residents in Zhuhai welcomed it. "I think this bridge will bring great convenience to the whole area of Zhuhai, Hong Kong and Macao, and promote the economic development of the whole area of the Pearl River Delta," resident Dang Zheiliang told AFP. China already lays claim to the record for the world's longest bridge of any kind – the Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge, a viaduct which is part of a high-speed rail line. Political analyst Willy Lam said the launch by Xi showed his support for Hong Kong's economic and political integration into the region, adding that the Pearl River Delta had long been the "new growth pole of China". It was also timed with a wider push to mark the 40th anniversary of China's economic reforms, against the backdrop of major challenges to the economy, including the escalating US-China trade conflict, Lam said. China will mark the anniversary in December of the "reform and opening up" that was launched in 1978 under the late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, moving away from a Maoist command economy and toward more market-oriented policies that transformed the country into the world's second-largest economy.



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Trump Decries MS-13, Yet Plans To Send Thousands Back Into Their Grip In El Salvador

Trump Decries MS-13, Yet Plans To Send Thousands Back Into Their Grip In El SalvadorThe Trump administration, which has repeatedly warned of the threat of gang violence and specifically of the MS-13 gang, just announced the end of immigration protections for thousands of Salvadorans living in the U.S, which will force many to return to a country where MS-13 is a serious problem.



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